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Media Summary

Iran to end some IAEA nuclear inspections next week

The BBC profile the late Palestinian poet, Mourid Barghouti who died yesterday at the age of 77. The article says Barghouti was born four years before the state of Israel was created in a village near Ramallah and spent much of his life in one form or other of exile – which he recounted in the memoir I Saw Ramallah that won him an international audience. Barghouti studied in Cairo when the 1967 Arab-Israeli war broke out and did not return to his birthplace for another 30 years. He published 12 collections of poems during his life as he moved between countries.

Reuters reports that Iran will further scale back its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal if other parties to the pact fail to fulfil their obligations. On 21 February, Iranian law obliges the government to end the more intrusive Additional Protocol inspection powers given to the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, and limit inspections to declared nuclear sites only. According to the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson, “We have no option but to respect the law. It does not mean ending all inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog”.

The Times reports that dozens of people have been arrested after the bodies of 13 Turks who had been missing for five years were found in a cave. All had been shot. Eight have been identified as soldiers and police officers kidnapped by the PKK, a banned terrorist groups, in the southeast in 2015 and 2016, when militants and Turkish security forces were fighting in the region.

A catastrophic explosion and fire at an Afghan customs depot has destroyed hundreds of fuel tankers and caused traders tens of millions of pounds of losses, according to a report in the Telegraph.

The Guardian reports that Libya, a transit stop for migrants trying to reach Europe, is now facing an exodus of its own people. At the end of December, the International Organization for Migration had registered 386 Libyans arriving in Italy by sea in 2020, almost double the number that arrived in 2019. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees recorded a 52 per cent increase of Libyans arriving in Europe, compared with 2019.

In the Israeli media the papers focus on a new study that reveals the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has a success rate of 94 per cent efficacy. Of the 1.2 million members in the Clalit HMO, half of whom were vaccinated, there was a dramatic drop of 94 per cent in infection and a 92 per cent in serious illness among those who were vaccinated versus members who were not. Maariv notes that the government is contemplating various courses of action to vaccinate those who are refusing to, such as preventing people [who haven’t been vaccinated] from entering hotels, businesses, synagogues and more. Another option under consideration is creating a range of benefits for people who have been vaccinated, such as permission to attend culture performances, priority listing for a variety of services and other benefits. However, the proposals raise several constitutional questions.

Yediot Ahronot publishes a commentary by Sever Plocker who highlights the urgency of persuading the public to receive the vaccine, particularly since “any resolve to persist with the restrictions is held hostage by politics, and with vaccines being Israel’s last line of defence”. He calls on the media specifically to not provide a platform to anti-vaxxers as if their opinions were on the same plane as the scientific truth. Plocker concludes: “The Israeli demographic and epidemiological situation are unique: it is a young population, there are a lot of large families, there is an abundance of available vaccines, a breached lockdown and a very contagious British variant … it requires that we speedily reach 5.5 million adults who have been vaccinated in two doses. That will not happen unless all of the population, with all the communities that comprise Israeli society, realize that the battle over the vaccine is a battle for life itself. Our job, as a responsible media, is to help persuade them of this.”

Kan Radio News reports that schools for first to fourth grades can open in cities listed as green, yellow and orange. The coronavirus cabinet will meet today for continued talks about giving benefits to individuals who have been vaccinated. Blue and White is demanding granting those benefits beginning this Sunday, but the Health Ministry wants to wait an additional two days. Benefits will include permission to enter shopping malls, gyms, culture and sporting events, hotels (without restaurants), museums and exhibitions. Street-side stores and places of worship would be open without restriction.The plan would allow for up to 2,000 travellers to enter the country via Ben Gurion Airport. Adjustments to legislation would give inspectors at the airport expanded powers. The Defence Ministry would prepare sufficient quarantine rooms at hotels, and the Health Ministry would prepare committees to grant exceptions. The plan was approved in principle, and the details will be approved later.

All the papers note that the UAE’s Vice President, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, swore in the country’s first ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Khaja on Sunday. The UAE’s cabinet last month approved the establishment of an embassy in Israel, while Israel announced its embassy had opened in Abu Dhabi, after the UAE and Israel agreed to normalise relations in August. Israel appointed Ambassador Eitan Na’eh as acting ambassador in the UAE last month – he has already arrived in the country.

Israel Hayom reports that Syria has blamed Israel for an attack in the area of Damascus last night. According to reports, warehouses located in the area of the Fourth Division were destroyed. The Syrian Defence Ministry accused Israel of firing ballistic missiles from the Golan Heights and the Galilee at the Syrian capital. The announcement also stated that Syrian air-defence systems downed most of the missiles. No injuries or property damage were reported. The attack comes amid ongoing movement of suspicious cargo planes from Tehran to Damascus.

The Israel Air Force (IAF) has started an unscheduled series of training maneuvers aimed at improving combat readiness in the northern theatere. IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Nurkin instructed forces to rehearse all air force systems that would play a role during a major war. Beginning this afternoon, there will be expanded activity by IAF aircraft, helicopters, and explosions will be heard. The training exercise will continue until Wednesday.

A new poll published in The Jerusalem Post shows that if elections would be held now, the Likud would get 29 seats, Yesh Atid 18, New Hope 14, Yamina 13, Joint List 9, Shaas 8, Yisrael Beytenu and United Torah Judaism 7 each, Labour 6, the Religious Zionist Party 5 and Meretz 4. Blue and White would not cross the 3.25 per cent electoral threshold. The poll also found that 62 per cent of Israelis who define themselves as left-wing want the Joint Arab List to be part of the next government, while the right is split about the extreme Jewish Power joining the next government, with 37 per cent in support and 31 per cent opposing.